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Deadline for roll-out of non-emergency NHS number (111) extended

Move will allow for better planning and ensure that everyone is on board

Caroline White

Friday, 15 June 2012

The deadline for the roll-out of the single access point for urgent care, NHS 111, has been extended, the Department of Health has announced.

A letter from Jim Easton, National Director for Improvement and Efficiency, which was sent out to the NHS yesterday, reiterates support for patients to access urgent care via a single point of access.

“However, after careful consideration, and having sought the views of senior Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) representatives and other stakeholders, we believe that an extension of up to six months of the original April 2013 deadline may be necessary in some cases,” writes Mr Easton.

This is to help ensure that there is enough time to make sure that local clinicians and key stakeholders are on board, and to prepare care pathways, he writes. Those CCGs who would like an extension will have to submit an application to their SHA before the end of July; others can go ahead, as planned.

The BMA welcomed the move. It had voiced several concerns about the original deadline, following feedback from GPs.

This suggested that the procurement of providers to run NHS 111 in non-pilot areas was being rushed through, without taking on board the learning from the pilot sites, and that decisions were not being driven by clinical commissioners who would ultimately be responsible for NHS 111 in their area.

Dr Laurence Buckman, who chairs the BMA’s GPs Committee, said the extension would allow for much needed developmental work to be done.

“We have been pressing the Secretary of State to allow a delay for some time. The principle behind NHS 111 – making patient access to urgent NHS services easier – is a good one, unfortunately the speed of the rollout was putting this at risk,” he said.

“Hopefully now there will be sufficient time to ensure local clinicians are properly involved so services can be designed that will be safe, reliable and genuinely benefit patients.”

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